Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Fate, High Drama, Penalty Kicks & Heroes/Villains

Uruguay vs Ghana, Extra Time, Quarter-Finals

Revisiting the now historic & dramatic final seconds of extra time during Uruguay's 1-1 tie with Ghana.

1) Free-kick is awarded to Ghana with less than 30 seconds on the clock.

2) Ghana's goal bound attempt is legally cleared off the line.

3) Ghana's second attempt is illegally punched off the line by Suarez.

4) A penalty is awarded to Ghana and a red card shown to Suarez.

5) Gyan steps up for a historic kick. The fate of a nation and an entire continent rests on his shoulders.

6) Incredibly the ball rings off the crossbar.

Gyan is shattered and the camera cuts to Suarez, the villain of this episode, who is now shown to be celebrating.

7) The match ends at 1-1 and heads to a penalty shoot-out.

Gyan shows tremendous mental strength and courage in being Ghana's first penalty taker. He once again goes for a high corner but this time successfully converts his kick.

Gyan's brave effort proves to be not enough as two of his teammates see their tame penalties saved allowing Abreu to chip Uruguay into the final four.

Ironic Penalties

Ironies are part and parcel of this game, especially those associated with penalties. People blame Roberto Baggio's penalty miss for costing Italy the 1994 World Cup but without Roberto Baggio's wonderful goals, including an extra time penalty kick against Nigeria in the second round, Italy would never have been in the final to begin with. Similarly, without Gyan, Ghana would not have been in the Quarter-Finals. Ghana failed to score a single goal from open play in the first round and the only reason that Ghana got to the second round was thanks to two successful penalty conversions from Gyan against Serbia and Australia. In both cases, it was a handball that gave Gyan the chance to score his vital goals. Gyan's penalty kicks enabled Ghana to be the only African team to make the second round at this World Cup so it is ironic that his miss dented Ghana's chances of making further history by becoming the first African country to make the semi-finals. Even though Gyan redeemed himself in the shoot-out, his failed attempt was the closest an African team has gotten to making the semi-finals of the World Cup.

Besides Ghana, in the last two decades, Cameroon and Senegal were the other two African teams who were within touching distance of the Semi-Finals but both Cameroon and Senegal lost in extra-time of Italia 1990 & Korea/Japan 2002 respectively. Although, penalties played a cruel part in Cameroon's elimination 20 years ago. Cameroon were leading 2-1 over England in regulation and were within 7 minutes of the Semi-finals but they gave away a penalty allowing England to tie the game up 2-2 and in extra time, they gave away another penalty to bow out of Italia 1990.

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